Any views expressed by any contributor to the Belfry Bulletin, including those of officers of the club, do not necessarily coincide with those of the editor or the committee of the Bristol Exploration Club, unless stated as being the view of the committee or editor.

Club Headquarters

‘The Belfry’, Wells Rd., Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tele: WELLS 72126

Club Committee

Chairman:         S.J. Collins
Minutes Sec:     To be appointed.
Members:          B. Wilton; D.J. Irwin; D. Stuckey; N. Jago; A.R. Thomas; N. Taylor; G. Wilton-Jones; M. Bishop

Officers Of The Club

Hon. Secretary: A.R. THOMAS, Allen’s House, Nine Barrows Lane, Priddy, Wells, Somerset. Tel: PRIDDY 269.
Hon. Treasurer:  B. WILTON, 27 Venus Lane, Clutton, Nr. Bristol.
Caving Sec:       D. STUCKEY, 34 Allington Rd, Southville, Bristol
Climbing Sec:    N. Jago, 27 Quantock Rd, Windmill Hill, Bedminster, Bristol 3.
Hut Warden:      N. TAYLOR, Whiddons, Chilcote, Somerset.  Tel. WELLS 72338.
Hut Engineer:    M. BISHOP,  Islay, 98 Winsley Hill, Limpley Stoke, Bath, Somerset..
Tacklemaster:    G. WILTON-JONES, 17 Monkham’s Drive, Watton, Thetford, Norfolk.
B.B. Editor:       S.J. COLLINS, Lavender Cottage, Bishop Sutton, Nr. Bristol. Tele. CHEW MAGNA 2915.
Librarian:           D.J. IRWIN, Townsend Cottage, Priddy, Wells, Somerset.  Tel: PRIDDY 369.
Publications:     To be appointed
B.B. Post:         B. WILTON. Address above.

MENDIP RESCUE ORGANISATION.  In case of emergency telephone WELLS 73481.  This will shortly become a 999 service.  We will let members know when this starts to operate.


 

Editorial

Christmas B. B.

This Christmas B,B, is, of course, late - and for many readers it will be a case of 'Happy New Year' rather than 'Merry Christmas'.  It is 20 pages - and that again is hardly a record.

However, it is seldom that I can remember a set of articles of such general interest making up a B.B. with so little 'padding'.  We have three caving articles - twp of which describe situations which could have got so much more awkward than they did, and for which I suspect credit must go to the members involved who in each case, kept their heads.  In addition, we have a travel article, a climbing and skiing article and one which purports to be humorous.

Add this to Dave Irwin's new series of general caving interest, and a few other bits and pieces, and we have a B.B. which contains some reasonable reading matter.  A word of thanks to all the authors of these and all the other articles this year.

Sorting the Men from the Boys?

We write at a time when petrol rationing looms over the New Year’s horizon and things look a trifle gloomy. If all these things actually come to pass in 1974, it might pay us to remember that last time we went through a period of austerity - just after the war, when things were a lot worse than they were during it - B.E.C. membership rocketed upwards, and the club was never busier.  The ingenuity of club members in getting to Mendip was proverbial. We can, if need be, do it again.

Stal under the Severn

A small 'Space filler' by the Editor.

Last September I had an opportunity to visit the new tunnel for electrical transmission lines, which has been driven under the Severn and Wye just downstream of the road bridge.

The tunnel has three entrances.   One on the Gloucestershire side, one between the two rivers and one on the other side of the Wye.   It was this last entrance that I descended.

The 90 foot entrance pitch is descended via a very small lift, into which people are crammed like sardines.  It operates on a rack and pinion principle and sways its way downwards.  On arrival at the bottom, the main tunnel starts. This is 8 feet in diameter, but one has to share this space with the drainage channel - on top of which one walks - and six very large transmission lines about 14" diameter, which line the walls.  The whole tunnel, which is concrete lined, leaks at quite an impressive rate.  Some parts are distinctly wet with very heavy drip, and you get quite wet.  The rate of leakage is of the order of a hundred gallons an hour.

An impressive quantity of stal, is in process of formation.  Some is, of course, the soft evaporation type which is normally found under bridges and in cellars - but some is quite hard and much more like cave stal.  I noticed the start of curtains (about a quarter of an inch long so far) some of which had 'shark's tooth' edges.  In one area there are some rudimentary small gours on a bank and also the type of 'cauliflower' stal flow like that in the main gorge of G.B.  All this, of course, is on a minute scale to date.  I even found some helicities, but these were of soft stal and perhaps really were anemolites.

I shall try to wangle another visit in a few years' time as by then, if the present trends continue, the Severn Transmission Tunnel may be the only place noted for its wealth and beauty of cave formations!

 



Europe ‘73

Colin Sage's report on his trip abroad, for which he obtained some assistance from the Ian Dear Memorial Fund

Well, thanks to the generosity of the administrators of the Ian Dear Memorial Fund, I managed to see part of Europe this year. With fifty quid in my pocket and clutching a one way air ticket to Amsterdam, I left Bristol on Monday the 16th of July.

On consideration now, I think it wasn't such a 'great' thing to do; after all, people are hitching their way through countries such as India, Nepal and Afghanistan, and I was only crossing the channel.  One the other hand, I hadn't visited a foreign country before (apart from South Wales) and I speak only Bristolian, so to me anyway it was a bit of an adventure.

I stayed my first night in London and on the following day flew from Gatwick to Schiphol airport; supposedly the most modern in the Western world - but my pack soon jammed up the conveyor belt which delivers passengers' luggage - thus ending that claim; I caught a bus to central Amsterdam and found some accommodation quite easily. The following days, I spent looking around; the most interesting sights being the Van Gogh Museum; the Stedeljik Museum and the red light district - the latter being the most expensive.  All the streets in this area had hundreds of women (no exaggeration!) lining each side, selling their wares.  Prices?  On enquiry I found out that they start at 30 guilders (approx. £5) for a fifteen minute conversation.

I suppose the highlight of my stay in Amsterdam must have been my visit to the Heineken Brewery.  It is such a desirable visit that one has to start queuing at around nine in the morning, but I certainly recommend it in spite of the wait. A quick look round the works (the guides don't bore you with technicalities - they know you're only there for one thing!) and then you're into the staff canteen with half an hour to sup as much as you want.  Waiters bring round the halves of lager (not too efficiently, it should be said!). They must have known that a B.E.C. member was there.  However, by asking (telling?) the plentiful American tourists for their drinks, it is possible to down about four pints in the time allowed.  The waiters have a really nice way of kicking you out - that is, they snatch your glass out of your hand, especially if it is full. Still, for one guilder (15p) it is a nice way to spend a morning.

The next day, I moved to Arnhem to see a collection of Van Gogh's works - then to Rotterdam for a couple of days which was unimpressive apart from its harbour (the second busiest in the world.)  Finally, I arrived in Maastricht, right down in Southern Holland in the enclave that juts between Germany and Belgium.  The influence of these two countries is particularly noticeable in the architecture of the buildings, especially the churches.  Another reason for visiting the town was to visit the extensive series of catacombs of St. Pietersburg.  These catacombs have been mined since Roman times, when they were first used to provide stone for fortresses but - apart from the occasional blasting by the Netherlands Cement industry - they are now no longer used. However, they are particularly interesting for the visitor.

Covering stone walls are some huge works of art, especially portraits of the royal family and such notables as Voltaire Sir Walter Scott and Napoleon have all inscribed their names in the soft rock.  The catacombs have a total length of over 200 km and stretch over part of Belgium.  A successful smuggling trade went on some years ago and the authorities, determined to stamp out this practice, sent groups of policemen underground. However, the smugglers, knowing every passage like the back of their hands, had no difficulty in making detours to avoid the gangs of shouting singing, lamp-swinging policemen.  Now, of course, in the days of the E.E.C., smuggling no longer exists.

Anyway, I next headed for Brussels, but ended up in Anhverpen, then hitched into Ghent. I arrived on the French border four hours after leaving Maastricht, so I didn't really get to know Belgium.

I met a guy from Amsterdam on the border and we stuck together for a bit. In fact, he was very useful because he could speak fluent German, French, English and Dutch.  We spent a night in Lille then next day headed for Paris.  Hitching is very difficult in the North of France, but we were very lucky and we made Paris in a day.  Our first concern was to find a place to stay, and after a few metro journeys and a lot of walking, we found a relatively cheap hotel.  That night, all the people in the hotel went out for a meal and I had my first decent meal since leaving England.  Red cabbage with mayonnaise, roast chicken with chips and a salad and ice cream with loads of bread and a bottle of red wine.  Total self-indulgence!  Luckily, this restaurant is known to be the cheapest in Paris and for 11 francs 50 (£1.15) it was certainly worth it.  Not only the food but the atmosphere of the place and the people, the whole scene impressed me immensely.

The next few days were crammed with the maximum amount of sightseeing.  The Louvre (the Mona Lisa was a disappointment) Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Jeu de Paume Museum, Notre Dame cathedral, Luxemburg Gardens and the Catacombs (there will be an article in the B.B. on these - Ed.).  I really enjoyed Paris and would have liked to have stayed longer but time and finances did not permit.  In fact, Paris is really expensive.

The three of us (Whoops! What a give away!) had decided to hitch down to Marseille for sun, sea birds, wine etc.  On the way we slept out behind service stations or under trees - but we got there in the end.  It was a b…. to get out of Paris, as it was to get anywhere.  I think France was made certainly without hitchers in mind.

Marseille.  Midden of the South.  A more horrible, filthy, violent, unfriendly city I have never seen. As we were moving south, I had this vision of a huge expanse of blue water - the Mediterranean Sea - but the first thing I saw on the coast was a petrol refinery pouring out filth with all the surrounding beaches dirty and the water full of empty bottles.  It strikes me that either there are a lot of shipwrecked people on lots of islands waiting to be saved or that the French don't give a damn about their environment.  I think the latter is the most probable.

We stayed in Marseille for a week, swimming and sunbathing and drinking dirt cheap wine that tasted like dirt.

Finally, we split up. I moved West towards the Pyrenees and the other two went to St. Tropez.

Hitching out of Marseille was difficult.  I spent the best part of a day going 20 km and was in the process of giving up when I got a lift that I was soon to regret.  I had only been standing at a particular spot for a few minutes when a van came along and stopped.  Using 90% of my French vocabulary and muttering "Je suis aller a Arles" I stumbled into the van, dragging my pack after me.  Inside the van were half a dozen kids, the oldest of which was doing the manoeuvring. The rest of the space inside was taken up by boxes of fruit.  What followed could only be compared to something out of the 'Keystone Cops' films. Most of the corners were negotiated on a maximum of two wheels and we would go along straight roads swaying from side to side.  Trying desperately to sound as casual as possible I enquired why we were travelling in such a manner (being careful not to use the word 'dangerous') “It’s because we've got a flat tyre." came the reply in French.

"Oh!“ I said

I decided to stick it out for as long as possible and we finally made it to Beziers, although we demolished some road works in Montpelier on the way.  After that, I thought that nothing could frighten me, but only the very next day.

I stayed with the kids overnight and then next day got a good lift to Toulouse.  Again, a bit of a problem getting out of the city, but I made it to Tarbes where I stayed a night in the most modern Youth Hostel I have ever seen.  I noticed that the people were much friendlier now, quite striking after Marseille.  When I arrived at Orolon St. Marie, people seemed surprised that I was hitching in the Pyrenees alone.  A grocer gave me a bag of bruised fruit and a man offered to buy me a beer - everybody was really friendly.

Now I was nearing my destination - Saint Engrace.  Waiting about twenty minutes, I got a lift all the way.  The people who gave me the left bought me a beer in a cafe and then took me right to the campsite.  I had finally arrived.

My first impression on arrival at the camp site was that a bomb had hit the place.  I later learned that it was always like that.  Most of the people were either at the EDF hut or on the plateau, but I soon learned the position from Albert (?) and others.

A group of Poles had gone down Tete Sauvage on the Monday and had not returned.  Bill Brooks had gone in the EDF early on Wednesday and hadn't found them.  The remaining Poles decided to get a rescue together, but things were very disorganised. That night, I crashed out reasonably early.

Next morning, I awoke to a torrent of abuse being directed at some unfortunate who had chanced to cross the path of the person who was screaming the abuse.  For a moment I thought I was in the Belfry and then, realising that in fact I was under canvas, I crawled from my tent to face a most horrible sight.  Camping next to me was NIGEL TAYLOR.  Further down were Ken James and Aubrey (W.C.C.)

That morning, I was elected (by Nigel) to climb the nearest mountain (we were surrounded by the things) with a walkie talkie and try to set up some form of communication with the plateau. After a hair raising climb, I found the battery in my radio was flat and so, most annoyed, I went back to the camp site, meeting Dave Yeandle on the way.  The remainder of that day and the subsequent days, I festered away because of the position with the Poles being stuck and nobody really knowing what was going on.

Finally, the Poles were located and rescued after being underground for six days, and I finally managed to go caving.  With Dave and Carol Tringham and a guy called Jonah, I made my first descent of the P.S.M. We went in EDF up to the Lepineux shaft and back, which took us eight and a quarter hours.  I am not going to describe the cave because I shouldn't be able to find enough superlatives to use.  Just say that I was very impressed!

The next day I went up to the plateau - walking into Spain - and wandered around.  The best of British to Hannibal and his ruddy elephants! (I thought it was the Alps he crossed - Ed.).

Finally, I left the camp site for home.  Got a lift to Pau then hitched towards Marseille.  My first lift was with a guy who acted very suspiciously.  He kept touching my leg - I don’t know what for!  Then I had an amazing lift to Orleans, from which I caught a train to London.

I arrived back in Bristol on Thursday 16th August, after covering nearly three thousand miles.  Not that far really, but I had a damned good time.  Again, I'd like to say "thank you" for the money, and I hope you don’t think I wasted any of it.  Perhaps when I'm a millionaire!


 

Belfry Sub-Committee

The purpose of this sub-committee is to look into what should be done in and around the Belfry to make the place better and more suitable for its function.  The idea of a separate sub-committee is to allow its members plenty of time to discuss the problems without being distracted by general committee business.  The Chairman of this subcommittee is GRAHAM WILTON-JONES.  Any member who has any ideas which he or she feels would be useful should get in touch with Graham, either at his home address or by sending or leaving a note for him at the Belfry.

Publications

As nobody has come forward to act as editor for the club publications, Dave Irwin has agreed to continue as Editor on the understanding that the publications department is really a team effort between himself, Doug Stuckey and Chris Howell.  They need some additional typing effort, so if any member can type or knows somebody who would do some typing for the club, please get in touch with Dave, Doug or Chris.

Fred Davies Forty?

After having read Kangy's article in last month's BB, Fred Davies commented that he may well be over forty now, but he has a better memory than has Kangy, for he can recall the exact day, month and year that the event described so graphically by Kangy took place. (He told me the exact date, but unlike Fred, I cannot now recall it as I am (a) well over forty myself, (b) was told it at the Grampian Dinner and (c) was half tight at the time - Ed.).  Fred also adds that Kangy's recollection of giving Fred and Denise a lift was possibly wrong, as Kangy had a motor bike at the time.


 

Birk’s Fell

An account of a visit to this cave by ‘Bucket’ Tilbury

The Friday night of the 31st of August saw a number of people in various cars setting out from different points in the country with the object of reaching Yorkshire to do Birks Fell on the following day.

I eventually arrived at the Bradford hut to find others of the B.E.C. already there. We wondered about the rest of the party as it was pouring with rain and they were planning to camp at Hubberholme.

At 7.30 on Saturday morning, my alarm went off and rang for 5 seconds.  I sank back into my sleeping bag and waited for the abuse to fly in my direction.  Amazingly, everybody was awake and getting up and not a single boot or anything else flew in my direction.

As breakfast was finished, the postman came and left two letters, one of which was the letter of consent to go down this cave.  Armed with the letter, and in the still pouring rain, we set off to find the others at Hubberholme.  A quick stop was made in Kettlewell to phone the weather station at Preston.  They told us that the rain would clear about mid-day with no more rain for approximately nine hours.

We found the rest of the party having breakfast in the pub at Hubberholme and while we all drank coffee we discussed whether the rain would really stop.  The whole of the party now assembled were as follows. Graham and Ian Wilton-Jones; Martin Webster; Milch; Pete Marshall; Crange; Ray Mansfield and myself.

Later in the morning, after clearing the access with the farmer and changing in the Buckden car park, we found ourselves at the entrance to the cave.  The stream just above the entrance flows down a miniature gorge and over some small cascades to disappear into a small hole in the right hand bank. There was a fairly large stream flowing in, due to the rain (which had recently stopped).

Someone led off, and everybody else seemed to try to get in second.  Things sorted themselves out, and everybody was on their way.  The entrance drops for about five feet and turns into a crawl in the stream which, as the stream was high, ensured that we all got wet.  The crawl is quickly followed by a rift passage which allows good progress to be made. A short flat out craw is followed by another section of the rift passage to a small chamber.  The party assembled in this chamber - or rather squeezed in - and looked for the way on.  The fact that it was not obvious was due to the many pairs of legs blocking the lower section of the chamber.  The route on was found to be a small crawl at floor level on the left side.  The crawl started on gravel with the stream, and as the roof rose, the water got deeper until a canal passage developed.  At this point, the whole party ground to a halt, and every one lay wallowing in the water.  Upon enquiry from the rear, we were told that the passage ended in solid rock and the way on could not be seen.  Some comments were hurled at those in front to the effect that if they were the sort of cavers they reckoned they were; the way on should have been found instantly.

To the sound of grunts and grumbling noises, the party moved on.  But on to where?  The front of the party seemed to be disappearing into the wall of rock and water on the right hand side.  When I reached the spot, there could be observed a small cleft in the rock containing a triangle of airspace.  Still, the others had gone on, so with a quick breath, I went in.  I found a flat out crawl on stones and gravel with the water half filling the passage which meant that the head had to be kept on one side in order to breathe.  This crawl is not too long, and the floor drops away to form another rift passage. On the way out, the water had fallen in this section, which made it much easier.  At the top of the thirty foot pitch, the party again met in force, while the alternative climb to the ladder pitch was found.  This involves traversing over the ladder pitch to the right hand side, where a parallel rift has been formed.  This is a fairly straight forward climb.  The passage was now a good size, which allowed the party to keep moving and keep together.  The stream disappeared in the floor under boulders.  A short way on, there are sections of false flooring with stal on them. This gives the name of Slipped Floor Chamber to the section.  The party again halted at the end of this passage, as no way on could be found. Everyone started looking for the way on, and this involved all of us disappearing into the boulder floor. Eventually, someone found the right hole, which led down through a squeeze back to the stream. This hole is on the left just back from the end of the chamber.  We followed the stream in a rift passage with a short climb down into a large spray and windswept chamber.  The spray was caused by the large amount of water descending Shooting Box Aven.  The exit from this chamber is awkward to find on the way out.

Following on downstream from the aven led us into a large canal passage with deep water.  The water gives way to boulders and another aven enters with a large stream flowing down.  From here, we dropped down through some boulders and regained the stream. The passage was a large rift with various boulder ruckles to negotiate.  These ruckles offered different routes through them, which led to our party swapping positions all the time, giving everyone a chance to lead or to bring up the rear.  At one point, while talking to the person behind, I moved over a boulder and trod on Graham's head as he emerged from another hole!  Graham's head is so covered in hair that he did not really notice! After some distance, the passage changed to a low, wide bedding plane which necessitated some flat out crawling in the stream.  At this point, Kay Martin and myself were in the lead.  The stream suddenly leaves the bedding plane and goes off to the right down a small passage.  The bedding plane continues on over mud banks, and we opted to follow this.  This was a mistake, for after a couple of hundred feet, the bedding plane turns right and gets too tight.  We turned round and started making our way back to the stream.  The rest of the party reached the junction and we informed them that this was not the way. Graham set off down the streamway to ascertain whether that was the way on. Ray and Martin made their way back upstream to see if there was something we had missed.  This was the last I saw of them until the top of the forty four foot pitch.

The rest of us waited until Graham came back and reported that it closed down.  Moving back upstream after Ray and Martin, we found a large passage on the right of the bedding plane.  A climb up from this over some boulders and we were off again!  The going was again fairly easy with mud covered boulders forming the floor.  These boulders ended suddenly at a large block wedged precariously across the passage. The way on was indicated to us by a knotted rope disappearing down through a hole in the boulders.  We followed the rope, and quickly regained the stream. Following the stream again, we went on until the floor dropped away at the first of the pitches.  This first one we climbed, and went on, turning the corner with the eighteen foot pitch, which was rigged with a ladder, belayed to a bolt. Pete went down the ladder, while I waited for Graham and Ian to catch up.  The water went straight down over the ladder. Graham and Ian arrived and expressed concern at the amount of water on the ladder.  I descended and waited for the others.  Ian had an attempt at the pitch, but climbed back.  Graham decided that he did not want to go on and, after passing down the tackle, they returned to the surface.

I set off to catch up the others.  Down two cascades and into a large rift passage called the Grand Gallery.  The rift really is grand and proceeds in an almost straight line.  The stream through which I was walking varied from knee to waist deep and my light disappeared into the blackness ahead.  I passed occasional groups of formations which broke up the dull colour of the walls and water with their whiteness.  I was beginning to wonder when the passage would end, when it turned, the roof dropped, and another crawl loomed up.  This crawl was quite short and I emerged in yet another rift passage of much smaller proportions.  Following this passage brought me to Elbow Bend.  Here, the main rift used to carry on to the old resurgence at Hermit's Cave, but this connection is now choked with boulders.

The stream turns right back on itself, and I followed it over a couple of small drops to a deep canal. The water rapidly deepened and I nearly had to swim.  The roof is also low and it looks as if this section sumps in high water conditions. The canal gave way to a normal stream passage – although of much size than before. 

After following the stream for a while, the passage reduced in size and the stream disappeared down a tube two feet six inches high by two feet wide.  As the others were still a way in front, I went down the tube and as it was half full of water, I half crawled and half floated through.

I emerged from this crawl into a large passage and at last caught up with the rest of the party, who were laddering the forty four foot pitch into Shale Chamber.  The belay for this pitch needs to be about twenty feet, and we used a double lifeline as the pitch is rather damp.  While the ladder was being belayed in position, we showed some concern about the amount of water going down, as it seemed to fall right on to the ladder.  Ray went down first to see what it was like.  After a few moments, the line stopped and he shouted up that it was all right.  When I descended the ladder, I found that a large ledge about ten feet down from the top breaks the stream into two sections.  I found that the ladder hung in the middle between the two streams so formed.  The lower section of the ladder receives a heavy amount of spray and, with the close proximity of the two streams; the descent is quite exciting without being at all dangerous.  When Pete, the last man, had descended, we set off after the other half of the party. At first we moved along a boulder floor with the stream running along underneath.  The noise of the stream disappears after a while as the water turns to the right and flows into a sump.  Continuing on the boulders the passage turns a couple of right angled bends and changes into a narrow rift.  The stream re-appears at the bottom of this rift, but the way on is to traverse along the top on small ledges.  In fact, the ledges do not exist in some places, and progress is made by wedging and straddling.  At a slight widening of this passage, we caught up with the others, who were frantically searching for the way on.  No way on was apparent to any of us.  After some deliberation, we decided to try to get down to the stream in the lower section of the rift.  At a small gap, Grange, Martin and Ray managed to squeeze down to the stream. They followed the passage for some distance to a sump.  When they returned, we decided to call it a day and set off out.

We had in fact, missed a small crawl leading to the last pitch and canal passages to the final sump.

The trip out was uneventful, except that the way was missed in the boulders a few times, and Martin's lamp ran out of light - which meant fun and games getting the spare carbide going. We emerged after six hours underground to a nice sunny afternoon.


 

Annual Report of the B B L H & S R G

If there is one subject which the members of the Belfry Bulletin Literary, Historical & Scientific Research Group have hitherto avoided like the plague - as readers of this tiresome annual series will no doubt have noticed - it is that of writing about present times.  Our aged savants, like ancient leathery pterodactyls, creak their way from the mythical past to the improbable future without ever demeaning themselves by getting too close to present day affairs.

It will therefore come as an unpleasant surprise to find that this year; using perhaps the same techniques as last year, we are to meet once more such characters as Pete Pushem and Fred Ferrett in a situation that could almost be classed as topical.

It is a fine, though wintery afternoon.  The sun hangs low and red in a cloudless sky, bathing nearly all of Mendip in its rays, as it picks out here a dry stone wall and there a leafless tree, tuning them all to a rich golden hue.

It does not, however, shine on the B.E.C.  Whilst the stonework of the Shepton hut glows softly in the afternoon sunshine and even Upper Pitts basks in the rays of its light; a brooding darkness hangs like a pall over the Belfry.

The reason for this phenomenon is readily seen to be due to the presence of a vast pile of rubbish, which looms like some enormous piece of modern sculpture behind the Belfry, casting a low and horrible shadow over that noble building while inside, in the stygian gloom, the committee are discussing it at some length while their bikes - for petrol is severely rationed - lean against the outside of that building.

"It's no use!", Pete Pushem is saying as he bangs his half empty tankard on the table by way of emphasis, "the ruddy council say they can't get ruddy petrol to shift our ruddy refuse, so we will have to ruddy deal with it our selves."  He shifts his large, untidy bulk and drains his tankard with a single, convulsive swallow.

"I've been thinking," says Tom Traverse, the Climbing Secretary, "that if we chucked a bit of cement over it now and again, it would make quite a decent climb in a few years' time.  That is, if the club could afford the cement."  He glances at the Treasurer, who makes what he considers to be an appropriate gesture.

Silence reigns, as this discussion has been going on for some time and ideas are becoming scarce. At last Ron Runnitt, the Hut Warden, makes his contribution.  "We will have to dig a gash pit." he announces.  "After all, the club always used gash pits before its rubbish was collected by the council.  If the lads of those days could dig gash pits, so can we."

Nobody having any answer to this profound remark, the meeting breaks up, as it is almost opening time.

The scene is more or less the same as before, except that now there are two vast piles which disfigure the Belfry site.  One is, of course, the rubbish pile - now higher and if possible, even uglier than before and the other is an enormous pile of spoil which looms nearby.  The B.E.C. is, as usual, doing something to excess. From the lip of the excavation, a winch cable tapers down into the darkness; for this is no ordinary gash pit of the sort you might find beside the hut of a minor Mendip club.  Those operating the winch are, in fact, peering over the edge and watching the tiny lights of those working at the bottom. There seems to be a great deal of activity below and yet no bucket has come up for some time.  At last, a pull on the cable sends the winch team back to their task.  It is a heavy load this time.  As the bucket slowly rises from the darkness of the pit, it is found to contain Pete Pushem, riding up.  He reaches the top and steps on to the platform to deliver his simple but effective message.

"The dig's over, lads," he announces. “We’ve struck oil!"

News of the B.E.C's discovery produces, as one might well expect, a variety of reactions.  The W----x, for example, hold the opinion that this is just the sort of jammy thing that is always happening to the B.E.C., while more deserving clubs are passed by.  Sid Stratum, the local geological expert, confesses himself baffled and privately wishes that it had never happened, as it completely upsets all his theories.  The fact that the sample barrel which the B.E.C. have sent away for analysis has shown the oil to possess a high carbon content renders him, if possible, even more baffled than before.  The B.E.C. point out that this is what you would ruddy expect from carboniferous ruddy limestone, but this explanation fails, somehow, to satisfy.

Meanwhile, the Conservation and Access committee of the Southern Council of Caving Clubs are in a quandary - or, as one member from Bristol aptly puts it, a dilemma.  Much as they would like to denounce this threat to the caves and countryside, they are only too well aware that they have all had to cycle to the meeting, and are finding it difficult to denounce the proposed commercial exploitation with any degree of conviction while they have vivid memories of pushing their bikes up Harptree Hill.

The receptionist at No. 10, Downing Street wrinkles his nose disdainfully as he opens the historic door to admit a collection of scruffy, oily and unkempt cavers. Against his better judgment, he ushers them in to the P.M.’s study and rushes off to see if he can find a large sized tin of airwick.  Finding one at last, he knocks respectfully on the study door and enters.  The room is full of these great hairy creatures. He broods on the sorry state to which the country has been reduced as he places the airwick conspicuously on the P.M.’S desk.  Suddenly, he is addressed by the largest and hairiest of these dreadful people. "You, lad, over there!  Don't just ruddy stand there in a ruddy daze! Go and fetch us some ruddy beer!"

The receptionist looks beseechingly at his master, hoping for some crisp order to clear out this rabble from his presence.  Nothing happens.  A broken man, he leaves the room to get beer as directed.

Once again, we find the B.E.C.  Committee in session at the Belfry.  Outside the building, both heaps are now much smaller and although the sun's rays do not yet shine again on the building, one begins to hope that this might be the case again, given any sort of luck. Inside the building, Ron Runnitt is speaking. He is reading from an impressive-looking document covered all over with massive seals.

‘Complete removal of all rubbish and spoil from the site’, he reads.  ‘Construction of a buried pipeline from the well to a point at least a mile from the site; Unlimited petrol coupons for all active B.E.C. members for the duration of petrol rationing; Abolition of tax on B.E.C. member’s vehicles.’

There is a deep silence. Even the B.E.C. are impressed.

"What did we have to give them in exchange?" asks Tom Traverse, after a suitable pause.

"The complete output of the well for as long as it can produce or be pumped." Ron replies. "They'll have the rest of the rubbish and spoil away by next weekend and the pipeline laid by the week after.  They've issued priority fuel to the contractors."

There is another long silence, broken eventually by Pete Pushem who, as usual, expresses the general feeling of the club.

“Let's have some more ruddy beer!” he suggests.

Outside a garage on Mendip top, two mechanics are busy with what has been a weekly job for more years than they can remember.  They are trundling a drum of old sump oil along to a place nearby where two planks have been laid over a small swallet.  With the ease of long practice, they roll the drum onto the planks, where one of them steadies the drum while the other unscrews the bung.  Another load of sump oil soaks its way into the swallet.

Once again, the winter sun shines on the Belfry site.  All is clean and tidy.  A row of shiny vehicles reflects the golden rays of the sun from gleaming chrome and glossy paintwork.  A small coach on whose sides the club name and emblem have been tastefully emblazoned turns into the car park.  The driver gets out, carrying a large bag and goes into the Belfry.  It is Fred Ferrett.

Once inside, he dumps the bag on the table.  It chinks. "That's it for to-day!" he says, as he makes for the barrel and pours himself a well-earned pint. "I've been the rounds and collected all those poor cavers who've got no petrol ration and taken them all to their huts."

"Ah!” says Tom Traverse,” It’s nice to be able to help those less fortunate than oneself!"

"Yes," says Ron Runnitt, pausing for a moment in his job of counting all the money from the sack, "It does one's heart good."

“Stop ruddy wittering like a lot of ruddy old hens!" growls Pete Pushem.  "Have we made enough profit for our beer tonight or not?"

Ron looks at the pile of cash with an expert's glance.  "Don’t worry, Pete.  We have."

Suddenly, the telephone rings.  Pete answers it, and remains listening for some time.  It is, as the others realise, an important call, for Pete's tankard remains motionless in his left hand throughout the long call.   At last, when the tension is threatening to become unbearable, he grins and says "Cheerio then, lad, and thanks for ruddy ringing."  He puts the 'phone down thoughtfully.

“That,” he says, "was the ruddy Ministry.  It seems that they started the ruddy pipeline working to-day.”

Something in Pete’s manner is disturbing.  Ron voices the general anxiety by asking Pete how it is going.

“Like a ruddy bomb!” comes the surprising answer, there is a collective sigh of relief.  “That should please them!” says Tom.

"Well, no.", Pete replies, “it ruddy doesn’t.  They got two ruddy hundred barrels out today.  The first six were full of ruddy oil and the other hundred and ninety four were full of ruddy cowsh!”

You can almost hear the collective brains of the B.E.C. humming as they assess the situation.  It is Fred Ferrett who puts his finger on the crux of the matter.

“We agreed they could have everything they could get out of the well.  So they can!” he says.

“Even if they ruddy refuse to give us any more ruddy coupons,” adds Pete, “We already have enough for all active ruddy members for months and for the coach as well.”

They exchange self-satisfied looks.  Pete gets up and draws a fresh tankard of ale.  He takes a meditative sip.

“What we could do with,” he announces, “is an engine that runs on cowsh.  Now I reckon that’s a job for the Hut Engineer, but if we take the carb. off an ordinary engine and……."

The B.E.C. settles down to its job of keeping well ahead of the situation.

*****************************************

A gentle reminder - subs are due in January. Pay Barry.


 

Round and About

A Monthly Miscellany of Caving News and associated topics.

by ‘Wig’

  1. MANOR FARM is still in the news. Nig Taylor is pushing gently at the lower end of the cave and I understand 'Prew' is still interested in an inlet passage further up the cave.  Willie Stanton is well ahead with the survey.  It will be interesting to get some accurate figures as to the length of cave.  The surveys published in the November B. B. are extremely interesting in that the scale bars show the plans as drawn by Jim Hanwell and 'Wig' to have a variation of about two to one.  The bend in the passage in Jim's survey is probably nearer the truth, since he used a compass!  However, a word of warning.  Nigel reports that after some fairly heavy rain the squeeze - Albert's Eye - had sumped, leaving the usual frothy mess in the opening.  At the moment, the fifty feet of electron ladder is not required, as the fixed ladder was re-installed to allow the surveyors to enter the cave without undue quantities of tackle.  Best to check at the Belfry first for the tackle requirements.
  2. NHSA is now on to another dig - though it has not been without its political consequences.  They are digging at TIMBER HOLE near the junction with the Longwood valley and Velvet Bottom.  A minor squabble has arisen as to who has the rights over the site - the M.C.G. or NHASA!
  3. POSTOJNA is the title of a coffee table book.  Four pages of general interest text followed by over 90 colour plates of the cave and its surrounds.  Marvellous value for £2.00.  Hard back; high gloss paper and jacket.  Size: 9" x 9" - available from Tony Oldham, 17, Freemantle Road, Eastville, Bristol BS5 6SY.
  4. CAMBRIAN CAVE REGISTRY have published a list of sites of speleological interest.  This is available from Alan Ashwell, 'Cuilagh', Stanyeld Rd, Church Stretton, Salop. and costs 15p.  It does not include mines at present
  5. Still in South Wales, a practice rescue in DAN-YR-OGOF has proved the impossibility of getting a seriously injured person through the Long Crawl.  The possibilities are: 1. Enlarging the Long Crawl.  2. Excavating a by-pass (this is being worked on) 3. Sinking a shaft and 4 (the most uncomfortable) hospitalisation until fit.  Frank Baguley, the Secretary of the Cambrian Council, commented that this would not be possible if the lakes flooded.
  6. CAVE PRESERVATION.  No longer can the experienced cavers blame those school kids and novices for destroying their cave formations.  What has happened to those magnificent helictites near the maypole in O.F.D. III?
  7. N.C.B. and C.D.G. get their heads together.  Following the Lofthouse mine disaster earlier this year, C.D.G. through Oliver Lloyd, contacted the N.C.B. rescue team divers to exchange ideas on diving matters.  It seems that the N.C.B. divers had only experience of open water diving and thus it was found that C.D.G. had much to offer in the way of experience and technique.  The N.C.B. divers have slightly differing requirements over the use of their air supply, due to the additional hazard of foul air, and so require a two hour duration even though the diving time is limited to 20 minutes or so because of the water temperature.  However, the C.D.G. and N.C.B. teams have since held combined practices in White Lady's (near LNRC) and at Wookey Hole.  A fine piece of public relations on the part of C.D.G.
  8. Holiday 1974.  Where is it to be?  Discussions have been taking place at the Belfry in recent weeks of an overseas trip next year.  THE LEBANON and AUSTRIA have been mentioned.  If you are interested in any away meet next year, contact Doug. Stuckey.  (See address at start of this B.B.) Anyone interested in a BELGIAN trip next Easter?
  9. Mid-week caving on WEDNESDAY evenings;  Yes, the Tuesday night diggers have confronted the NHASA diggers by going into competition on Wednesday evenings!  Sounds complicated, don't it? Anyway, if you are interested in a quick flip to the bottom of HUNTERS.  (No, sorry - not the pub!) HOLE to take part in a digging session down there; contact Roy Bennett 8, Radnor Road, Westbury-on-Trym.  Telephone (0272)627813 or meet in the Hunters Car Park at 6.45 p.m.
  10. ADITIONS TO THE LIBRARY.  Red Rose CPC Newsletter 10 (3); Derbyshire Caving Club 'Dodger's Despatch' (1) (2) (3); Climbing Guide No 5 - Llanberis South; D.B.S.S. Proceedings 6 (1) 1946-48; Chelsea S.S. Newsletter 16(1); Dorset C.G. Journal 2 (3)(4).  Many thanks to Nigel Dibben for the D.C.C. items and to Martin (Milch) Mills for the climbing guide.
  11. Lastly, but not least.  Members will have noticed the general clean-up and repainting taking place at the Belfry.  A great improvement indeed.  The Women’s Room and the general living room have received a good coat of paint.  Our thanks to Martin Bishop and helpers.  Incidentally, the re-formed Belfry Sub-Committee under the chairmanship of Graham Wilton-Jones is under way and is looking at the long term requirements of the Belfry, so that the committee may be pointed in the right direction when considering improvements.  If you have any strong feelings, get in touch with Graham, Nigel Taylor or any committee member as soon as possible.  An interim report is due at the January meeting of the committee.  N.B. The club committee now meets on the FIRST FRIDAY OF THE MONTH at 7.30 p.m. at the Belfry.

Change Of Address

Bob White is now at 2 Keward Walk, Wells, Somerset.

His phone number is St. CUTHBERT 4331  (S.T.D. Code 074 982 )


 

Last & First

No Christmas B.B. would be complete without a contribution from 'Our Man in Europe' - Kangy.

Written in May 1973.

At the Western extremities of the Pyrenees, high winds had blown most of the snow from the ridges, and what remained lay hard in the hollows and gullies.  The central Pyrenees however, still had a good covering of show and, optimistically, one could still enjoy downhill skiing at the end of April.  And that was how we arranged the last day's skiing and the first day's climbing of the year.

We left Toulouse for Andorra early on Saturday morning.  Two cars were taken, one to take Ken Sayers and Kangy to Pic Carlit after the skiing and the other to take Nadine Sayers and Pierre Gay back to Toulouse that evening.

The day was not encouraging. Water ran down the 'cowboy town' streets of Pas de la Cas.  The man who sold the ski tow tickets cynically observed that we'd be better off on the beach and, when we got higher, it started to sleet.  I made several descents and found that the snow, although soggy, went well.  Gay, full of enthusiasm, shot off the piste into the heavy stuff and made a fairly elegant job of it.  Following him, not being sufficiently relaxed, I managed several spectacular dives before deciding to save my legs for 'tomorrow's mountain' and stuck with the piste.  There I could be as elegant as I liked without burying myself prematurely.  We got wet on the ski tow and packed it in for an early lunch and to dry off.  Lunch, to digress, was a good selection of hors d’euvres, then grilled snails 'a la Catalan' and a good slice of steak.  There was a selection of dessert or cheese and 'un bon petit vin rouge' - all for ten francs.

After a long lunch, we went out into the sunshine and made a mad rush for the tow.  Part way up, a stream had broken through the snow, directly in the line of the tows causing a deep trench and it was necessary to slalom briskly to avoid water skiing. (Did you hear about the man who bought some water skis and then spent the rest of the season looking for a lake with an inclined surface?)

Nadine stationed herself here strategically.  As I passed she heaved a couple of large snowballs at me, and only by a series of frantic contortions did I avoid both the snow balls and my first wet caving trip on skis.  And that was the skiing - just before the station closed for the summer - pretty useless snow with rocky patches, but fun.

That evening, after a fairly complicated series of swapping manoeuvres to ensure that the skiing gear and the duty free plonk went home in one car and that Ken and I went off in the other, we arrived at Font Romau.  The good news was that the road was open right up to the Touring Club de France hotel, at about 2,000 metres - and that the weather was fair.

Ken and I stayed in the refuge behind the hotel and, bright and early next morning, we set off with M. and Mme Loubet and M. and Mme Delafon to tramp across the barrage at the Lac des Bouillouses and to kick the first steps in the hard snow on the other side. The approach to the Carlit is a good one, passing lakes and pine trees dotted in a high level plateau, and very pretty.  The lakes were now frozen, which helped progress, and we went rapidly until we hesitated at the initial slopes of the mountain.  After discussion, we chose a deep snowy valley between two arms of the mountain. Higher, we found traces of a summer path which confirmed the route.  Traversing high on one wall of the valley, we arrived at a col with beautiful views of the Spanish mountains to the South and an aerial perspective of the approaches. From the col, an arête, craggy and steep, grew out of the snow and this was the route that Ken and I took.  To the right, it was possible to traverse into an open gully and follow the snow to the top.  The rest of the party took this.  The arête was airy but straightforward and led directly to the summit. The views were good to start with but soon, clouds blew up to hide the nearer ridges.  However, from previous observation and from the map, it seemed that a long ridge curved eastwards for 4 or 5 kilometres and Ken and I started off down this.  The first part of the descent was steep and took the ladies of the party so long that, in the end, the Loubets and the Delafons glissaded down a connecting couloir to join the morning route while Ken and I continued.  The ridge we followed was mixed rock and snow exciting to look at and satisfying to be on.  Both sides fell away sharply and gave uninterrupted views to the left and right. Gradually, after a long period of tiptoeing along a knife edge, the ridge began to flatten out and, although we kept to the edge, the effect was that of walking on a high plateau.  All the way we had the benefit of wide views and a rapidly changing cloudscape.

Eventually, the flat angle of the ridge steepened and we turned South towards the Lac des Bouillouses and the cars.  Decreasing altitude caused softer snow and started to make walking difficult as we sank in up to our knees.

Before we were too low, we stopped to study the next section of country between us and the Lac des Boiullouses to find a reasonable route through the complicated terrain.  Once committed, route finding would be difficult.

Descending rapidly, we narrowly avoided a wetting in a lake hidden under heavy snow and ice and then watched, gripped by the spectacle, as the green water - laden with snow and ice - hissed and broke free of the snow barrier damming the end and, aided by a large stream which rapidly formed, moved massively down a small valley. Avoiding this by moving quickly, we wound a tortuous way through the forest until, eventually, we gained the Lac des Bouillouses.  We had thought to walk easily along the two kilometres of the lakeside.  Deep, soft snow and the shattered remains of the edges of the thick ice sheet which had covered the now dry lake prevented anything other than an exhausting slog.  As it was unavoidable and we'd had the best part of the day, we plodded philosophically on and thought of beer.


 

G.G. Episode

Another caving trip with a difference.  This time, in G.G. and written by Derek Sanderson.

During last summer’s C.P.C. winch meet at Gaping Gill, Keith Sanderson and myself decided to attempt an abseil trip through Disappointment Pot and out via the winch or Bar Pot after visiting Far Country if we had time.  The trip in itself is not particularly super severe, but neither of us had been into this part of the system before, so we spent some time finding out what the problems were likely to be.

Armed with a waterproof survey; a hundred feet of rope and a twenty five foot ladder, we made sure that the winch operators knew where we were going before entering Disappointment Pot. Quite a lot has been written about this pot and I got the impression that cavers tend to underestimate it.  We found the going quite tiring, as the streamway is narrow and one often has to traverse above stream level.  The cave was not as friendly as I had expected, but the grey rock had a pleasant feel to it.

The pitches too, were not very spacious, and abseiling was constricted.  All the pitches except the last were 1addered (30', 25', 25', 30' and 25').  The last pitch is a fifty foot drop into a boulder chamber, and a flake of rock served as a belay point from which the rope could be retrieved.

From below this pitch, a narrow squeeze through boulders leads to a crawl passage which enters Hensler's Main Stream Passage.  The character of the cave from this point on is very different.  Development is horizontal and the stream way is wide and not washed clean.  To the left is a crawl which links this to Bar Pot.  We turned right (downstream) and, after some pleasant walking, we came to climb over a mud pile into a higher parallel passage (the lower passage leads to a sump).  This passage is more like a mine, with dry mud walls and floor and a stale atmosphere. After an 'S' bend, the passage narrows and the roof becomes arched and ribbed with calcite to give the impression that one is walking down the throat of a whale:

Crossing a glutinous pool, we emerged into a small chamber with a slippery fixed ladder which disappeared through a square hole in the roof.  This is the start of Far Country.  We gingerly climbed the ladder and emerged into a muddy chamber with a small letter-box squeeze at the far side.  This is the 'Blowing Hole'.  This squeeze looks very awkward as it is on a slope.  After getting halfway through I decided that it would be unwise for just the two of us to push on any further on this occasion (in other words, I chickened out.)  Keith agreed, and we backed out.

We strolled gently back through Main Stream Passage past the turning for Disappointment Pot on the left and the infamous Hensler’s Long Crawl on the right.  The passage lowered to a crawl, and it was here that our troubles started.  We had been underground for four hours and felt fine.  Dead ahead was supposed to be the Muddy Crawl into Bar Pot.  The information we had been given was that it was either short and muddy, or long (about two hundred feet) and muddy.  All said we couldn’t miss it.

In fact, the area turned out to be a maze of tubes, some of which were half full of water and frightening liquid mud.  The area was so confusing, that after a full hour of wallowing, we even experienced some difficulty in retracing our steps back to the streamway.

We were now faced with a dilemma.  It was clear that we were not going to get out via Bar Pot. (Personally, I wasn't prepared to enter those tubes again under any circumstances) and we couldn't get back into Disappointment Pot as the fifty foot pitch was not laddered. So we had a choice.  Either to sit and wait to be rescued or to find an alternative route out.  As far as we could see, the only other way was via Hensler'’s Long Crawl.  All we knew about this route was that it was difficult - with over a third of a mile of bedding plane crawling - and that one could get lost if a particular left turn was missed.  It was now important that we made up our minds one way or the other, and we elected to try Hensler's Long Crawl.

Climbing out of the streamway, we entered a smaller passage which led to the entrance of the crawl proper, a bedding plane which proved to be about eighteen inches high and six to eight feet wide in scalloped grey rock and which, under different circumstances, one might well call pleasant.  We entered the crawl, working on one light and keep keeping the other in reserve and crawled flat out around a never-ending progression of bends.  It was obvious that we couldn’t pinpoint our position on the map, but we explored every possible opening on the left. After some time, we found our turning and knew that we were about half way home.

The second half of the crawl seemed to have an even lower roof and at times it was difficult even to roll over.  The effort too, was beginning to have an effect, as shown by the increase in colourful language.  At one stage, a waterlogged tube on the left was reached from which a strong draught blew. This was later identified as Gemmel's Folly, and it took a lot of effort to ignore this tube and move away to the right - especially as we felt that a left turn would have been better.

Soon after this, we stacked our tackle on one side and left it behind, as it had become too much of an effort to drag it along.  A further age of crawling, and we suddenly emerged into a bigger passage running from right to left and we knew we were out.  A quick scramble up to the left and a short stroll to the right, and we were at the winch.

It had taken us one and three-quarter hours to pass the crawl, and we had only been underground for six and a half hours, yet we were worn out.

Some people may think: that I am overemphasising the trip, but it must be remembered that for us it was covering new ground.  Neither of us enjoy caving which involves blindly following the feet of the person in front - so much more satisfaction can be had from caving with friends if one finds one's own way - but it is important to find out as much as possible about a cave first, and not to take on too much.  The above trip turned out to be far harder than was planned, but by stretching ourselves a little, we managed it without accident.


 

Langstroth Pot – The Rescue

Being a full and veritable account of our journeys into this dangerous an gulf and our safe return.

(To be read after reading Bucket's description of Langstroth)

by Graharn Wilton-Jones

This was essentially an Ashford Speleological Society trip, as only three of us are B.E.C. members - Bucket, me and brother Ian.  The other three were our Northern friends Bernard, Fred and Brian.

We arrived in Langstrothdale fairly early and called at Paisgill to seek permission to descend. All was well, and we parked by the Warfe to change.  There was light rain, but the river was low and the forecast was for clearer weather. After a very thorough look at the map, we set off up the hillside to find the entrance. Months previously we had searched for the entrance in the snow, but failed to realise that we'd found it when we did.  On that occasion we investigated practically every hole on that side of the valley. This time, we found it with ease, exactly as the book had said but Fred, who got there first, insisted that this was not it because he could not even negotiate the entrance.

I quickly went through, climbed the first pitch, and confirmed that this was indeed Langstroth Pot. The others had begun to follow so I set off rapidly, carrying the tackle, to check the route.  There was no need, for the way is obvious.  It seemed a long drag, especially over the bouldery section before the slot, so I took a little tackle from someone else, who had at last caught up after I'd waited ages.

There was much wittering at the slot after I'd gone through but since I could do little to assist, I went ahead with Bernard to rig the first ladder pitch.  While we did this, the others tried to excavate an alternative to the slot - a bedding plane to one side of the rift.  We made our way through a chamber with good straws well above the stream to the head of the next pitch and rigged that.

Whereas the first pitch has a tight take-off and one is in the wet all the way, against the wall and with a ledge halfway down; this second pitch was free-hanging and dry. The stream dropped into the rift from somewhere below us and several yards behind us.  Having waited ages at the bottom of this pitch, I was joined by Bucket and Ian who told me that Fred and Brian had failed at the slot and were going out to do Yodienthwaite Cave.  (I had an idea that this flooded to the roof, and immediately assumed that the little rain would prevent access.)

Bernard had set off down the rift, so we rapidly followed.  This passage has nasty, stumpy, wet-suit-destroying helictites, especially for people who hurry.  Suddenly the rift changed to a bedding plane, which offered quite a pleasant crawl on hands and knees.  Here, there was a small amount of water flowing gently over the gravelly floor.

As the passage floor dropped away, we reached; laddered and climbed the fourth and fifth pitches fairly rapidly.  The sixth pitch of fifteen feet is wide, and the small quantity of water flowing over left several choices of dry free climbs.  As for the next pitch, all the water of the stream went straight over the ladder for all its length.  However, it was possible to dam the stream with one's posterior, and two were able to climb dry.

We quickly passed through the next large section and the well decorated Canal Passage.  At the finish pitch we went down two at a time to look at the nearby sump leading to Langstroth Cave. Once again, it is possible to dam the stream by sitting in it, and those who wished climbed dry.

We spent some time hear the bottom, and then began to make our way upwards.  At the top of the Seventh pitch, I went up the inlet to try to find the fifteen foot long straw.  A short way up the inlet, there is an aven and I could see no way in. Then I noticed a small trickle of water against one wall of the aven - this appeared from a narrow slot.  Above this slot, a way on was visible if you stood right against one wall - otherwise it would have easily been missed. Climbing up about fifteen feet, I was able to crawl into the bottom of a narrow rift.  Crawling for some sixty to eighty feet, I came to a chamber with five foot straws, but nothing approaching fifteen feet.  There was one very narrow inlet and a possibility of a way on in the roof.  I heard Ian's and Bucket's voices behind me and took a further look into the tight inlet. As I put my hand in the stream, the noise increased and I presumed that a little waterfall round the corner made the noise.  I decided against going into this tight, low crawl and took my hand out.  The noise continued to increase very rapidly and I realised that the place was about to flood.

Turning round, I yelled to Bucket and Ian to get out.  Bucket understood at once, having heard the stream, but Ian was climbing into the roof of the inlet, quite unaware of the danger.  Seeing Bucket and I zooming past him like lightning "and yelling" Get out;" he finally made a move.  One flood pulse passed us in the crawl and the water immediately became rapid and deep.  At the short climb, a torrent of white water shot across to the other side.  I just grabbed a couple of handholds and dropped, as did Ian, seeing Bucket and me vanish beneath the jet of water with such rapidity.  Reaching the junction, we found Bernard with most of the tackle - a little was washed away and we retrieved some from the stream at once.  He said that the flood pulses of the main stream and the inlet reached the junction at the same moment.  The main passage now carried a heavily swollen, peaty brown, roaring stream. The noise was deafening, and we had to shout to each other although we were close together.  The decision was to head upwards to the chamber between the second and third pitches.

At the fifteen foot free-climbable pitch, we were confronted by a six foot high, ten foot wide wall of water - now an almost impossible climb simply due to the force of the water. Ian, however, climbed up into the rift and slung a rope over a rock bridge and we used this rope to climb up through the water.  Even so, it was not easy.

On the ladder pitches, the order was Bucket, Ian, Bernard (the youngest member of the party and also the only one without a wetsuit) the tackle and finally me.  We have got into the habit of tying an extra length of line on to the bottom of a lifeline.  This means that there is never any difficulty retrieving the line and when tackle is raised it can be held by the bottom man away from snags etc.  Thus we were very efficient and fast on the pitches.

Anyone climbing immediately disappeared behind a mass of spray and it was quite a suspense for us at the bottom, waiting first for a glimmer of light and then for a body to emerge at the top of the spray.

The bedding plane was taking an enormous amount of water at great speed.  It was up to eighteen inches deep and proved very tiring.  As we hurried through the next section - the Helictite Rift - the pace slowed.  The next pitch, a long but 'dry' one, was now a mass of water.  An inlet was coming in from the side carrying perhaps as much water as the main stream and hitting the ladder about six feet short of the top.  On the way down, there had been no water here at all.  Fortunately, we had left all the tackle on a ledge at the head of the Fourth Pitch and could safely forget this.  Bernard had difficulty near the top of this pitch where the water hit.  He was beginning to feel the cold quite severely.  He was virtually dragged up the last few rungs. I had no choice when my turn came. I was dragged up far faster than I could climb and thus tore my wetsuit trousers very badly, but not quite indecently. However, it did allow valuable body warmth to escape.

Almost immediately above this pitch, we were in the chamber we had passed through on the way down. From here, the next pitch was clearly visible - just through a squeeze and over a climb, but the ladder was utterly hidden beneath a massive flow of water and the aven was filled with cold whirling spray.  Without discussion, we decided to sit it out.

The floor was about five feet wide before it dropped into the deep, narrow rift which took the water. We set up the carbide spare as a sort of homely, warm light and, after much preparation, including wiping as much water from the floor as possible, we sat together with our backs to the wall and covered ourselves with a space blanket.  This was not really large enough and those at either end of the row were not fully covered.

Bernard, who had wrung his clothes out (NOT hung them up to dry, as the papers said; but what a concept! - a new use for the clothesline in Swildons Sump I!) was cold. Ian, with his wet socks, had frozen feet.  I, in my torn wetsuit, was cold.  Bucket, with his new wetsuit and his generous layers of natural insulation, was merely cool. Without crouching right down, with knees bent double, it was not possible to stay totally under the space blanket.  There were constant exchanges between Ian and Bucket at either end, the one arguing that we should be breathing under the sheet to conserve warmth, and the other insisting that it made little difference at his end because he was only half covered.

We dozed for most of the time, and although this undoubtedly conserved energy, we later learned that one is not advised to sleep if one is at all cold.  On two occasions we got up to stamp around to restore circulation to cramped muscles, but we rapidly felt the cold each time and soon sat again. Unfortunately, the air in the chamber was swirled between the two pitches and was never still and presumably full of a fine, chilling spray - not visible but soon felt.  The noise of the two waterfalls - one above us and one beneath - roared on unceasingly, deafeningly loud.

At midnight, the noise of water had not diminished when, from above, we heard a hulloo.  We called back in acknowledgment and were amazed at the state of the pitch.  There was practically no water at all in comparison with the noise.  We made ready to move, and Bucket went back to the top of the lower big pitch to check that the tackle was secure.  There he found that the inlet was carrying an increased stream - enormous when compared with the main stream.  Hence the reason for the lack of lessening of the noise. While one stream decreased, the other increased.  The lower big pitch was now virtually impassable.

The first member of the rescue team abseiled down to us - a sight to behold.  With him came a comfort box, whose goodies were rapidly consummed by rescuers and rescued alike.  Soon after, a goon suit arrived for Bernard.  It appeared that someone on the surface knew that he was without a wetsuit. The someone was Fred.  We had wondered about him ever since the flood began. Had he gone into Yodienthwaite? Was he stuck higher up in Langstroth? Was he outside?

In fact, it was raining hard when Fred and Brian emerged, so Brian decided to go back home and Fred sat in the van and, for something to do, watched the water level rise against a boulder in the Warfe.  He dozed off, and when he woke up there was no boulder to be seen - only a very swollen Warfe, lapping its banks.  He trudged up the hill and found a small stream entering the pot.  However, he went in with the intention of helping us out with the tackle.  This was at 6.p.m., six hours after we had entered.  He reached the slot, but since there was no sight or sound of us, he made his way out with difficulty, finding the duck virtually sumped.  On the surface, the stream had risen further and Fred attempted to dam it up, using mud, boulders and overalls.  He dug with his bare hands, but to no avail.  He decided to attempt to reach the slot again, but the streamway was by now sumped.  Soon after, at 8 p.m. he called out the C.R.O.

Within a very short space of time, over two hundred people were involved including the police, three fire brigades, local farmers, local art college girls - and even Bob Cross. Fred borrowed a spade from a local farmer and managed to break it after three digs into the shallow peat.  C. R O. knocked up a hardware store in Skipton and requisitioned all his spades.  Those who had no spades dug with their bare hands, and in two hours there was a channel nearly two hundred yards long, diverting nearly all the water into Hagg Pot.  Higher up on the moor, a further channel was dug.  Three large pumps were brought into the valley ready to pump the bottom sumps dry if possible and if necessary.  The weather was now changing rapidly, and the forecast was for further heavy rain by 10 p.m.

The rescue team was naturally anxious that we should be out as soon as possible, so up went Bernard first. He had great difficulty getting through the top of the pitch which is narrow if you climb straight up instead of squeezing sideways.  It took him several minutes to negotiate it.  At the Slot, he again had difficulty and was fully ten minutes getting though. In the chamber above the slot, we opened some very welcome flasks of hot soup.  From then on, the going was uneventful and slow, but good humoured. We chatted about other rescues and similar mundane subjects - one of the rescue team had been stuck in Langcliffe last year.

We emerged to electric lights, T.V. cameras, flashbulbs, hot stew, dozens of expectant and relieved faces and a thermometer.  Bucket was 2 degrees below normal, Ian and I were 4 degrees down and Bernard's temperature was 87.6 degrees F!

We were whisked off fairly rapidly to just bearable hot baths.  Ian was bathed by two attractive young ladies but even this did not make his temperature rise above 960.  Bernard flaked out in his bath, and the doctor had his temperature back to normal within minutes.  Ian's feet remained numb for three weeks afterwards, but this was the only noticeable after effect that any of us suffered.

The following weekend, Bucket and I returned to remove our tackle from the system.  This trip was fairly uneventful except that I became stuck in two separate places including the slot, in my haste.  Eldon were down later on and helped us pass tackle through the slot.  Passing tackle up long pitches and along straight sections of passage (which are few in Langstroth) was achieved by attaching it to the centre of a lifeline. This can save considerable time, especially when there are only two of you and mounds of tackle.

We emerged, immersed in mud, this time to beautiful sunshine and leaped very rapidly down the hillside and straight into the Warfe - a deliciously stupid experience, causing much consternation and wonder amongst the holidaymakers.


 

The Coolite

Roger Wing writes 'please find enclosed item from the Industrial Equipment News for November 1973. I am sure such an item would prove very useful in certain emergency situations underground.  Perhaps the Consumer Enquiries Department of the B.B. could test the item in question and publish its findings.'

The item is the COOLITE emergency snap-light.  Obtainable from FONADEK INTERNATIONAL LTD, FONADEK HOUSE, ALBAMY RD. BIRMINGHAM B17 9JS, and the directions read as follows:-

Bend the Coolite tube sufficiently to break the inner ampoule and, as soon as the two chemicals inside come into contact with each other, there is emergency lighting for at least three hours.  It acts as a cool, safe, non-toxic light that can be held in the hand or placed anywhere indoors or out.  The light has a shelf life of four years or more.  Price 44p.

I have written to the firm in question, pointing out that we are a caving club, and asking for a sample. If this approach fails, we might even have to buy one.  In any case, we WILL test one and let members know shortly what conclusions we come to. Chris Harvey had a similar device on Mendip some months ago, but whether it was the same make as this one, is something I will try to find out, as Chris's experience might also come in useful. (Editor)

Monthly Crossword – Number 39.

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Across:

1. Cave found in northern spot. (3)
4. Initially us. (1,1,1)
7. Pore over this caving aid. (4)
9. Swildons grotto. (3)
11. …will do it to excess. (2)
13. Present era. (1,1)
14. Mendip cave opened by 24 ac. (6)
15. Short thanks. (2)
17.  Initial example. (1,1)
19. Wash ore. (6)
20. Myself. (2)
21. Outward cave direction. (2)
22. Sum. (3)
24. Discoverers of 14 ac. (1,1,1,1)
27. Later part of Swildons. (3)

Down

2. Green on Market. (3)
3. Not from this. (2)
4. Exist. (2)
5. Little company perhaps? (5)
6. Uneven? (3)
8. Did pry locally. (6)
10. Mendip caving trips are usually this. (4)
11. Swildons Way. (3)
12. Class ‘E’ climbs (6)
16. Are cavers sometimes this in a cave? (4)
18. Way on through a ruckle perhaps. (3)
20. Route aid (3)
21. Employ (3)
23. This a cave for a trip. (2)
24. Compass direction. (1,1)
25. First bit of Cuthbert’s? (2)

Solution to Last Month’s Crossword

 

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